Alternative Development Standards Archives

November 22, 2004

Many municipalities and developers in British Columbia are emerging as North American leaders in smart growth practices at the regional and local scale.

Residents are demanding more choices in housing, and in the quality of neighbourhoods and job opportunities. Bounded by ocean, mountains, rivers and working lands, communities are also being forced to use land more efficiently to stop urban sprawl, revitalize commercial centres, and maintain a workingland base.

In recognition of this leadership role, West Coast Environmental Law has developed a comprehensive web-based Smart Bylaws Guide (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg) to assist local governments to implement smart growth strategies through policy and bylaw changes. It describes smart growth practices, and backs up the theory with case studies, technical standards and bylaws that can be tailored to specific municipal circumstances. The Guide brings together the good practices of municipalities across BC, and highlights innovators in the US.

The Smart Bylaws Guide can assist local governments to:
  • Create urban containment boundaries and preserve agricultural land;
  • Create more compact complete communities where services and residential uses are integrated into walkable neighbourhoods;
  • Assess the look and impact of increasing densities;
  • Implement affordable housing strategies;
  • Integrate the 'green infrastructure' into neighbourhood design; and
  • Ensure that the cost impacts of different types of development are properly addressed.
Leaders in the development industry, municipal governance and sustainable communities are recognizing the value of the Smart Bylaws Guide. "It is great to have a central resource and access to this type of information for all sectors and citizens interested in smart growth strategies", states Allison Habkirk, Mayor of Central Saanich. "The Smart Bylaws Guide is also an efficient way for elected officials to easily gain an overview of these issues."

"Many architects, planners and developers would like to build more sustainable communities and buildings, if only the applicable zoning bylaws and other codes would let them. I am confident that this excellent Guide will contribute to a review of outdated and inappropriate regulations, and thus result in more sustainable development throughout British Columbia", states Michael Geller, President and CEO of the Simon Fraser University Trust.

The Smart Bylaws Guide is composed of eight interconnected tools:
  1. The Case for Smart Growth (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/case.pdf) outlines what smart growth is and why it is of benefit to local governments. It goes beyond principles and provides economic and other data to prove that smart growth strategies work - how smart growth costs less for municipalities and developers, increases property values, creates safer streets, increases housing and transportation choices, and protects drinking water supplies.
  2. The Smart Bylaws Summary (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/summary.pdf)  describes the basic elements of smart growth using case studies ranging from the regional and municipal scale to site and building scale. It provides an overview of the entire Guide, and links from within the chapters take readers to more detailed online descriptions of the tools local governments can use to implement smart growth.
  3. Web pages, accessed from an overview of smart growth principles (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/overview), discuss each smart growth strategy in more depth and provide links to bylaws, policies and case studies.
  4. Case studies (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/casestudies) document development projects that exhibit a number of smart growth features.
  5. Bylaws and policies (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/bylaws) accompany each smart growth strategy. Bylaws and policies can be accessed directly from this page, or can be viewed as the linked technical support for case studies and smart growth strategies.
  6. Checklists (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/checklists) enable staff, council members and citizens to evaluate projects and municipal programs.
  7. Resources (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/resources) provide links to further online information.
  8. The Glossary (www.wcel.org/issues/urban/sbg/glossary) explains terms associated with smart growth, and defines acronyms.
For printed copies of the Smart Bylaws Summary or A Case for Smart Growth, contact admin@wcel.org or 604.684.7378 (Lower Mainland) or 800.330.9235.


The City of Surrey is currently engaged in ambitious efforts to develop a greenfield site in much "smarter" ways than in the past..